Last post I mentioned that the first step in couples counseling is to look at your own behavior to see how you may be contributing to your partners reactions and to the problems in your relationship. If you have done this, you most likely were able to identify a few things that you do that affect your partner, and if you weren’t then don’t think that is because you are perfect!
Just the other day I had a couple in my office, I had been seeing the husband for some time before they were ready to come in for couples counseling. This day he became quite frustrated, stating that he didn’t see the point in keeping up with his changes because his wife wasn’t working on changing. She was quite confused, not knowing what it was that she had been doing that had made him mad. His response was that she knew him better than he knows himself and is so smart that she had to know what it was, but she truly did not. I explained to him that when he first starting coming to counseling he didn’t know all the things that he needed to change until I held up a (metaphorical) mirror for him to see himself more clearly and that no one has held up that mirror for his wife yet. Fortunately this explanation made sense to him and he was able to calm down. If you are like this couple, you may need some additional help in seeing your behaviors for what they are.
The trick is finding the right mirror and interpreter, think the evil Queen in Snow White and her magical mirror who can only tell the truth (although please don’t react as the Queen does!) I say this is the trick because it is very hard to find a truly objective person. Your partner, although part of the subject in question, is probably not going to be able to be objective enough for that very reason. Friends and family members in general also have a hard time being objective as they are likely to take your side. Many times they also only hear your side of the story and therefore do not get all of the information to be able to be objective. You may be able to find a person, however, that is intuitive enough to sort through the information you give them and empathic enough to put themselves in your spouses position to give you some input. If you are unable to find someone to help, you may need the help of a professional counselor. A counselor would be able to ask questions to help you develop insight into your situation, and specifically into your part in the situation.
Although this can be a lengthy process for some, it is by no means the answer to the problem. Insight is only the first step. In upcoming entries I will discuss the remaining steps in making lasting changes in your relationship.